A return to life as normal could fuel an autumn wave of coronavirus cases but further lockdowns may not be required, a UK government scientific adviser has said.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he was “cautiously optimistic” that another lockdown would not be needed to bring cases under control again.
Edmunds said there was a need to be “very cautious” about the situation at the moment because previous peaks had been countered by locking down.
“We’re not doing that this time,” he told Times Radio. “But I don’t think we will need to go into a lockdown. I hope not anyway. I very much hope not. I’m cautiously optimistic about that.”
Fellow SAGE member Professor Neil Ferguson, among the government’s most prominent scientific advisers on COVID-19, also predicted that it is unlikely a lockdown will be needed again to control the virus.
In an interview with the Times, he said: “I think it is unlikely we will need a new lockdown or even social distancing measures of the type we’ve had so far.”
The Imperial College professor also told the newspaper that lockdowns could not be ruled out as they may still be needed if the “virus changes substantially.”
However, Prof Ferguson added that COVID-19 was “going to transition quite quickly in a few months to be more something we live with and manage through vaccination rather than crisis measures.”
He said the vaccine had “dramatically changed the relationship between cases and hospitalisation.”
The coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, in England has fallen and is between 0.8 and 1.1, according to the latest government figures.
Last week, it was between 1.1 and 1.4. R represents the average number of people each COVID-19 positive person goes on to infect.
The government said a further 92 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 130,178.